Understanding Stalking Behaviour
Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment. (p.7, A Handbook for Police and Crown Prosecutors on Criminal Harrassment, Dept. of Justice, Canada, March 2004.) It can be a precursor to violence, or a continuation of family violence or abuse. (p.7, Stalking is a crime called Criminal Harrassment, Dept. of Justice, Canada, 2003.)
Stalking is another form of maintaining power and control over another person, and has become a huge issue in Indigenous communities. Results of the 2005 General Social Survey indicate that Indigenous people are twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to have reported experiencing some form of stalking in the previous five years which caused them to fear for their life. Although both Indigenous men and women experience stalking at a much higher rate than the general population, the incidence among Indigenous women is more than one in five. (p. 39, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2005.)
Results from this same report clearly show that stalking victims often know their stalkers. Victims most frequently indicated they were stalked by people classified as friends (23 per cent), current or ex -intimate partners (17 per cent), persons known by sight only (14 per cent), or coworkers, neighbours and other relatives (18 per cent.)
Overall, less than one quarter of stalking victims were harassed by a stranger. (Please note these statistics are for the general population.)
Not only is stalking more prevalent in Indigenous communities, but the fear and incidence of violence is greater as well.
- Nearly 50 per cent of Indigenous female stalking victims feel their life is in danger compared with 30 per cent of non-Indigenous women.
- Twenty-six per cent of Indigenous stalking victims reported being grabbed by their stalkers compared with 16 per cent of non-Indigenous victims.
Stalking is any repeated action that is unwelcome by the victim and is intended to exert control over her. It can include following her, spying on her, loitering around her home or workplace, leaving threatening or unwanted phone calls, emails or letters, interfering with her property, watching or tracking her and sending her unwanted gifts. Stalking behaviour can also include showing up to events or gatherings she will be attending or sending family members to go to these places to keep and eye on her. These contacts are repeated on numerous occasions and in general serve only to cause the recipient fear for their own safety or for the safety of someone known to them.
Stalking was introduced into the Criminal Code of Canada in 1993 under the term criminal harassment. The Code defines prohibited behaviour as follows:
- Repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them.
- Repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them.
- Besetting or watching the dwellinghouse, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be.
- Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.
Although stalking behaviour may not result in physical harm it can be detrimental to the mental, emotional and spiritual well being of a woman. Because the threat of violence is real when dealing with criminal harassment, it’s important to always have a safety plan in place.
Safety tips (Canadian Department of Justice):
(pp. 13-15, Stalking is a crime called Criminal Harrassment, Dept. of Justice, Canada, 2003.)
- Tell others of your situation. Alert coworkers, friends, family and your child’s school or daycare. Give them as much information as possible about the person of concern so they can act accordingly.
- Keep any personal information private – remove personal details from things you throw out or recycle.
- Consider switching your home phone to an unlisted telephone number. Contact the phone company and inquire about tracing calls and security features available.
- Carry a cell phone if possible in case of emergency.
- Post information on the Internet with extreme caution, read all security and privacy notices on websites before posting. Let your Internet service provider know about any harassing emails. Never use your full name as a user name, and change your passwords often. Save any harassing emails.
- When driving keep all doors locked and alternate your route whenever possible. Always have a safe back up destination in mind should you not feel safe returning home.
- Keep a paper and pen with you at all times to write down license plate numbers or other details.
- Make an emergency escape plan. Keep a packed bag and some money in your car, at work or at a friends place. Let your family or friends know about your plan.
*Note: These tips apply to urban settings and may not be appropriate for remote northern reserves or rural communities.